“I’m so happy to be the coach of the New Mexico
Neal as he finished his opening statement, smiling broad and
wearing the cherry red coaches blazer that has become a symbol of
since Neal and his former boss, Steve Alford, came to Albuquerque
Neal was officially introduced Wednesday as the
coach of the Lobos by athletic director Paul Krebs before the
media and a large
and often boisterous group of boosters and fans.
"Continuity is really important," said Krebs
during his opening statement. “And next year is really important,
year and the year after that and the year after that are equally
continuity for continuity's sake really didn't matter to me.
Continuity with the
right leader is what mattered.”
Neal’s contract, as laid out in the term sheet
handed out at
the press conference, is set for five years with a base salary of
with additional incentives for winning Mountain West Conference
conference tournament championships, advancing in the NCAA
tournament as well
as student-athletes reaching academic goals.
The announcement was a relief to both fans –
who built a
groundswell of support for Neal that included a Facebook page
coaches hire – as well as the players, who junior Kendall Williams
largely happy with the hire.
“On Saturday morning we were left with no coach
and we had a
lot of things to wonder about – to (ask) questions about," said
who was among the Lobo players who came to the press conference.
hiring coach Neal, it's great for everyone. But I still think it
opens a lot of
gates for people. People have to make a lot of decisions still.”
Krebs said he spent much of the time between
announcement that he was leaving UNM Saturday and the hour-long
afternoon where he and UNM president Robert Frank offered Neal the
coaching job, taking phone calls as well as conducting the search
for a new
coach. And one
“I had a well-known, well-respected basketball
(on the phone and) when I asked him about Coach Neal his words
has a Ph.D in basketball.’ And I thought that was very
appropriate. It involves
more than X’s and O’s. (It’s) six years of really on-the-job
“After a thorough review I feel very confident
Neal, his skills, his abilities… not just as a basketball coach
(but) as a
leader,” concluded Krebs.
Like Krebs, Neal also talked to a lot of people
former players for many eras of Lobos basketball including Hunter
Daniels, Kenny Thomas, Darrington Hobson, Dairese Gary. He said
the calls were
all very helpful as well as appreciated.
Neal takes over a team that won both the
regular season title as well as the tournament title and earned a
3-seed in the
NCAA Tournament before losing in the second round of the
tournament to finish
Neal referenced that in looking forward to his
as head coach.
“Like I told
team) in our first team meeting, we’ve got a lot of unfinished
Neal. “And we’ve got a lot of goals and a lot of things we’ve got
to do and I
just want to be there for them and help them reach their goals.”